The Aga Khan Case
Teena Purohit Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress KNS46.A33P87 2012 | Dewey Decimal 344.547096
An Arab-centric perspective dominates the West’s understanding of Islam. Purohit presses for a view of Islam as a heterogeneous religion that has found a variety of expressions in local contexts. The Ismaili community in colonial India illustrates how much more complex Muslim identity is, and always has been, than the media would have us believe.
The Supreme Courts decisions concerning the first amendment are hotly debated, and the controversy shows no signs of abating as additional cases come before the court. Adding much-needed historical and philosophical background to the discussion, Richard J. Regan reconsiders some of the most important Supreme Court cases regarding the establishment clause and the free exercise of religion.
The relationship between religious belief and sexuality as personal attributes exhibits some provocative comparisons. Despite the nonestablishment of religion in the United States and the constitutional guarantee of free exercise, Christianity functions as the religious and moral standard in America. Ethical views that do not fit within this consensus often go unrecognized as moral values. Similarly, in the realm of sexual orientation, heterosexuality is seen as the yardstick by which sexual practices are measured. The notion that "alternative" sexual practices like homosexuality could possess ethical significance is often overlooked or ignored.
In her new book, An Argument for Same-Sex Marriage, political scientist Emily Gill draws an extended comparison between religious belief and sexuality, both central components of one’s personal identity. Using the religion clause of the First Amendment as a foundation, Gill contends that, just as US law and policy ensure that citizens may express religious beliefs as they see fit, it should also ensure that citizens may marry as they see fit. Civil marriage, according to Gill, is a public institution, and the exclusion of some couples from a state institution is a public expression of civic inequality.
An Argument for Same-Sex Marriage is a passionate and timely treatment of the various arguments for and against same-sex marriage and how those arguments reflect our collective sense of morality and civic equality. It will appeal to readers who have an interest in gay and lesbian studies, political theory, constitutional law, and the role of religion in the contemporary United States.
Ronit Y. Stahl Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress UH23.S73 2017 | Dewey Decimal 355.3470973
Ronit Stahl traces the ways the U.S. military struggled with, encouraged, and regulated religious pluralism and scrambled to handle the nation’s deep religious, racial, and political complexity. Just as the state relied on religion to sanction combat missions and sanctify war deaths, so too did religious groups seek validation as American faiths.
Why teach about religion in public schools? What educational value can such courses potentially have for students?
In For the Civic Good, Walter Feinberg and Richard A. Layton offer an argument for the contribution of Bible and world religion electives. The authors argue that such courses can, if taught properly, promote an essential aim of public education: the construction of a civic public, where strangers engage with one another in building a common future. The humanities serve to awaken students to the significance of interpretive and analytic skills, and religion and Bible courses have the potential to add a reflective element to these skills. In so doing, students awaken to the fact of their own interpretive framework and how it influences their understanding of texts and practices. The argument of the book is developed by reports on the authors’ field research, a two-year period in which they observed religion courses taught in various public high schools throughout the country, from the “Bible Belt” to the suburban parkway. They document the problems in teaching religion courses in an educationally appropriate way, but also illustrate the argument for a humanities-based approach to religion by providing real classroom models of religion courses that advance the skills critical to the development of a civic public.
If we want nonscientists and opinion-makers in the press, the lab, and the pulpit to take a fresh look at the relationship between science and religion, Ronald L. Numbers suggests that we must first dispense with the hoary myths that have masqueraded too long as historical truths.
Until about the 1970s, the dominant narrative in the history of science had long been that of science triumphant, and science at war with religion. But a new generation of historians both of science and of the church began to examine episodes in the history of science and religion through the values and knowledge of the actors themselves. Now Ronald Numbers has recruited the leading scholars in this new history of science to puncture the myths, from Galileo’s incarceration to Darwin’s deathbed conversion to Einstein’s belief in a personal God who “didn’t play dice with the universe.” The picture of science and religion at each other’s throats persists in mainstream media and scholarly journals, but each chapter in Galileo Goes to Jail shows how much we have to gain by seeing beyond the myths.
Using Arabic-language sources that have never before been studied or analyzed, Max Weiss paints a nuanced picture of sectarianism in Lebanon under the French Mandate. He demonstrates that sectarianism evolved long before the phenomenon known as “political Shi’ism.” This groundbreaking and deeply researched book is not merely narrative history; it also incorporates some of the latest critical theory about religious modernity and colonialism. Weiss illustrates the power of sectarianism as both a conceptual category and as a set of practices which can be a force for good and positive change as well as for division and destruction. By foregrounding historical forces that shape and direct sectarianism, he also shows how dimensions of sectarianism that no longer serve a society can be overcome with time.
Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of what we call “religion.” There was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning. But when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this Western idea. In this book, Jason Ananda Josephson reveals how Japanese officials invented religion in Japan and traces the sweeping intellectual, legal, and cultural changes that followed.
More than a tale of oppression or hegemony, Josephson’s account demonstrates that the process of articulating religion offered the Japanese state a valuable opportunity. In addition to carving out space for belief in Christianity and certain forms of Buddhism, Japanese officials excluded Shinto from the category. Instead, they enshrined it as a national ideology while relegating the popular practices of indigenous shamans and female mediums to the category of “superstitions”—and thus beyond the sphere of tolerance. Josephson argues that the invention of religion in Japan was a politically charged, boundary-drawing exercise that not only extensively reclassified the inherited materials of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto to lasting effect, but also reshaped, in subtle but significant ways, our own formulation of the concept of religion today. This ambitious and wide-ranging book contributes an important perspective to broader debates on the nature of religion, the secular, science, and superstition.
Japan’s Holy War reveals how a radical religious ideology drove the Japanese to imperial expansion and global war. Bringing to light a wealth of new information, Walter A. Skya demonstrates that whatever other motives the Japanese had for waging war in Asia and the Pacific, for many the war was the fulfillment of a religious mandate. In the early twentieth century, a fervent nationalism developed within State Shintō. This ultranationalism gained widespread military and public support and led to rampant terrorism; between 1921 and 1936 three serving and two former prime ministers were assassinated. Shintō ultranationalist societies fomented a discourse calling for the abolition of parliamentary government and unlimited Japanese expansion.
Skya documents a transformation in the ideology of State Shintō in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth. He shows that within the religion, support for the German-inspired theory of constitutional monarchy that had underpinned the Meiji Constitution gave way to a theory of absolute monarchy advocated by the constitutional scholar Hozumi Yatsuka in the late 1890s. That, in turn, was superseded by a totalitarian ideology centered on the emperor: an ideology advanced by the political theorists Uesugi Shinkichi and Kakehi Katsuhiko in the 1910s and 1920s. Examining the connections between various forms of Shintō nationalism and the state, Skya demonstrates that where the Meiji oligarchs had constructed a quasi-religious, quasi-secular state, Hozumi Yatsuka desired a traditional theocratic state. Uesugi Shinkichi and Kakehi Katsuhiko went further, encouraging radical, militant forms of extreme religious nationalism. Skya suggests that the creeping democracy and secularization of Japan’s political order in the early twentieth century were the principal causes of the terrorism of the 1930s, which ultimately led to a holy war against Western civilization.
“What does it mean to see the American landscape in a secular way?” asks Nicolas Howe at the outset of this innovative, ambitious, and wide-ranging book. It’s a surprising question because of what it implies: we usually aren’t seeing American landscapes through a non-religious lens, but rather as inflected by complicated, little-examined concepts of the sacred.
Fusing geography, legal scholarship, and religion in a potent analysis, Howe shows how seemingly routine questions about how to look at a sunrise or a plateau or how to assess what a mountain is both physically and ideologically, lead to complex arguments about the nature of religious experience and its implications for our lives as citizens. In American society—nominally secular but committed to permitting a diversity of religious beliefs and expressions—such questions become all the more fraught and can lead to difficult, often unsatisfying compromises regarding how to interpret and inhabit our public lands and spaces. A serious commitment to secularism, Howe shows, forces us to confront the profound challenges of true religious diversity in ways that often will have their ultimate expression in our built environment. This provocative exploration of some of the fundamental aspects of American life will help us see the land, law, and society anew.
In the course of exempting religious, educational, and charitable organizations from federal income tax, section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code requires them to refrain from campaign speech and much speech to influence legislation. These speech restrictions have seemed merely technical adjustments, which prevent the political use of a tax subsidy. But the cultural and legal realities are more disturbing.
Tracing the history of American liberalism, including theological liberalism and its expression in nativism, Hamburger shows the centrality of turbulent popular anxieties about the Catholic Church and other potentially orthodox institutions. He argues persuasively that such theopolitical fears about the political speech of churches and related organizations underlay the adoption, in 1934 and 1954, of section 501(c)(3)’s speech limits. He thereby shows that the speech restrictions have been part of a broad majority assault on minority rights and that they are grossly unconstitutional.
Along the way, Hamburger explores the role of the Ku Klux Klan and other nativist organizations, the development of American theology, and the cultural foundations of liberal “democratic” political theory. He also traces important legal developments such as the specialization of speech rights and the use of law to homogenize beliefs. Ultimately, he examines a wide range of contemporary speech restrictions and the growing shallowness of public life in America.
His account is an unflinching look at the complex history of American liberalism and at the implications for speech, the diversity of belief, and the nation’s future.
Cécile Laborde Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress BL65.S8L325 2017 | Dewey Decimal 322.1
Cécile Laborde argues that religion is more than a statement of belief or a moral code. It refers to comprehensive ways of life, theories of justice, modes of association, and vulnerable collective identities. By disaggregating these dimensions, she addresses questions about whether Western secularism and religion can be applied more universally.
Scott Sowerby Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress BR757.S65 2013 | Dewey Decimal 274.107
Though James II is often depicted as a Catholic despot who imposed his faith, Scott Sowerby reveals a king ahead of his time who pressed for religious toleration at the expense of his throne. The Glorious Revolution was in fact a conservative counter-revolution against the movement for enlightened reform that James himself encouraged and sustained.
Most people in the United States today no longer live their lives under the guidance of local institutionalized religious leadership, such as rabbis, ministers, and priests; rather, liberals and conservatives alike have taken charge of their own religious or spiritual practices. This shift, along with other social and cultural changes, has opened up a perhaps surprising space for chaplains—spiritual professionals who usually work with the endorsement of a religious community but do that work away from its immediate hierarchy, ministering in a secular institution, such as a prison, the military, or an airport, to an ever-changing group of clients of widely varying faiths and beliefs.
In A Ministry of Presence, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan explores how chaplaincy works in the United States—and in particular how it sits uneasily at the intersection of law and religion, spiritual care, and government regulation. Responsible for ministering to the wandering souls of the globalized economy, the chaplain works with a clientele often unmarked by a specific religious identity, and does so on behalf of a secular institution, like a hospital. Sullivan's examination of the sometimes heroic but often deeply ambiguous work yields fascinating insights into contemporary spiritual life, the politics of religious freedom, and the never-ending negotiation of religion's place in American institutional life.
Garry Wills is the polymathic public intellectual bemoaned as missing from American letters. A professor emeritus at Northwestern University, he has built upon his early studies in classics and patristics, while bringing his considerable intellect to bear on American culture, politics, and religion, notably through provocative articles and books on wars, past and present presidents, and the Catholic Church Wills has distinguished himself in the crowded field of Civil War history; fearlessly taken on the legacies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, among other presidents; and offered a critical voice in many fraught ethical discussions, especially in the areas of war and peace.
Nation and World, Church and God gathers original critical reflections by leading writers and scholars on Garry Wills’s life work. Organized around the themes of “Classics,” “Civil War,” “War and Peace,” and “Theology, Church, and the Arts,” the book reflects the cultural acumen, fine-grained political analysis, ethical candor, and theological wisdom of one of America’s most prolific writers.
This book presents three of the works of Abduʾl-Bahā, son of the founder of the Bahāʾi Faith, which deal with social and political issues.
In The Secret of Divine Civilization (1875) Abduʾl-Bahā supports the administrative and broader social reforms of Mirzā Hosayn Khān, but looks mainly for organic reform through the efforts of Iranian intellectuals to awaken and educate the masses. In this work, Abduʾl-Bahā gives virtuous and progressive Islamic clerics a leading role among these intellectuals—indeed most of his appeals are directed specifically to them. A Traveller’s Narrative (1889/90) is an authoritative statement of the overarching concepts of Bahā’i social and political thinking. The Art of Governance (1892/93) was written as Iran entered a prerevolutionary phase, and ideas that we recognize today as the precursors of political Islam were spreading. It sets out the principles underlying the ideal relationship between religion and politics and between the government and the people.
In addition to presenting the first parallel text translations of these works, the Persian texts incorporate notes on variants in the early published sources. An introduction outlines the intellectual and political landscape from which Abduʾl-Bahā wrote, and in which his readers lived.
Religious organizations in many countries of the communist world have served as agents for the preservation, defense, and reinforcement of nationalist feelings, and in playing this role have frequently been a source of frustration to the Communist Party elites. Although the relationship between governments and religious groups varies according to the particular country and group in question, the mosaic of these relationships constitutes a revealing picture of the political reform shaping the lives of Soviet and East European citizens.
Religious activities have been of continuing importance in the rise of protest against postcolonial governments in Eastern Africa. Governments have attempted to “manage“ religious affairs in both Muslim and Christian areas. Religious denominations have acted as advocates of human rights and in opposition to one-party-state regimes. Islamic fundamentalism changed with the ending of the Cold War.
The book is divided into four parts: The Challenge of Islam; Christianity, Sectarianism, and Politics in Uganda; Christians and Muslim in Kenyan Politics; and Cross-cultural Complications. An introductory essay by Michael Twaddle provides and overview of the changing character of politico-religious conflict in Eastern Africa. Holger Bernt Hansen summarizes the presentation with a discussion of dilemmas and challenges in the study of religion and politics.
In Religion and the Making of Nigeria, Olufemi Vaughan examines how Christian, Muslim, and indigenous religious structures have provided the essential social and ideological frameworks for the construction of contemporary Nigeria. Using a wealth of archival sources and extensive Africanist scholarship, Vaughan traces Nigeria’s social, religious, and political history from the early nineteenth century to the present. During the nineteenth century, the historic Sokoto Jihad in today’s northern Nigeria and the Christian missionary movement in what is now southwestern Nigeria provided the frameworks for ethno-religious divisions in colonial society. Following Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960, Christian-Muslim tensions became manifest in regional and religious conflicts over the expansion of sharia, in fierce competition among political elites for state power, and in the rise of Boko Haram. These tensions are not simply conflicts over religious beliefs, ethnicity, and regionalism; they represent structural imbalances founded on the religious divisions forged under colonial rule.
Prayer in public schools, abortion, gay and lesbian rights—these bitterly divisive issues dominate American politics today, revealing deep disagreements over basic moral values. In a highly readable account that draws on legal arguments, political theory, and philosophy, Ronald F. Thiemann explores the proper role of religious convictions in American public life. He proposes that religion can and should play an active, positive part in our society even as it maintains a fundamental commitment to pluralist, democratic values.
Arguing that both increased secularism and growing religious diversity since the 1960s have fragmented commonly held values, Thiemann observes that there has been an historical ambivalence in American attitudes towards religion in public life. He proposes abandoning the idea of an absolute wall between church and state and all the conceptual framework built around that concept in interpreting the first amendment. He returns instead to James Madison's views and the Constitutional principles of liberty, equality, and toleration. Refuting both political liberalism (as too secular) and communitarianism (as failing to meet the challenge of pluralism), Thiemann offers a new definition of liberalism that gives religions a voice in the public sphere as long as they heed the Constitutional principles of liberty, equality, and toleration or mutual respect.
The American republic, Thiemann notes, is a constantly evolving experiment in constructing a pluralistic society from its many particular communities. Religion can act as a positive force in its moral renewal, by helping to shape common cultural values.
All those interested in finding solutions to today's divisive political discord, in finding ways to disagree civilly in a democracy, and in exploring the extent to which religious convictions should shape the development of public policies will find that this book offers an important new direction for religion and the nation.
In the case of Nigeria, scholarship on religious politics has not adequately taken into account the pluralistic context and the idealistic pretensions of the state that inhibit the possibility of forging an enduring civic amity among Nigeria’s diverse groups. Ilesanmi proposes a new philosophy or model of religio-political interaction, which he calls dialogic politics. Dialogic politics celebrates pluralism and suggests that religious institutions he construed as mediating structures functioning as buffers between individual citizens in search of existential meaning and cultural identity and the impersonal state, which tends to gravitate toward instrumental objectives. Ilesanmi’s study offers a fresh perspective on the complex relations between political attitudes and religious convictions.
Shamanism, History, and the State
Nicholas Thomas and Caroline Humphrey, Editors University of Michigan Press, 1996 Library of Congress GN470.2.S53 1994 | Dewey Decimal 291.14
The literature on shamanism and related topics is extensive, but has in general been biased toward curing and trance; the political and historical significance of shamanic activities has been largely neglected. The contributors to Shamanism, History, and the State--distinguished anthropologists and historians from England, Australia, and France--show that shamanism is not static and stable, but always changing as a result of political dynamics and historical processes.
Contributors are Tamsyn Barton, Sysan Bayly, Mary Beard, Maurice Bloch, Peter Gow, Roberte N. Hamayon, Stephen Hugh-Jones, Caroline Humphrey, and Nicholas Thomas.
"The importance of this collection lies in the painstaking, many-sided ways in which it shows 'shamanism' to be a multifarious and continuously changing 'dialogue' or interaction with specific, local contexts. . . . Thus, rather than tackling the issue in principle, this collection tries to demonstrate through 'case studies' just how different 'shamanism' becomes if seen through a lens sensitive to history and the influence of institutions, such as the state, which seem far removed from it. I think the demonstrations add up to an impressive force." --Michael Taussig
"This new, ably edited volume provides . . . chapters that are rich in historic detail and that provide insights into general cultural processes and social interactions." --Historian
Nicholas Thomas is Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra. He is the author of Out of Time: History and Evolution in Anthropological Discourse. Caroline Humphrey, author of Karl Marx Collective: Economy, Society and Religion in a Siberian Collective Farm, is Fellow of King's College and Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.
“Congress shall make no law reflecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment aims to separate church and state, but Kent Greenawalt examines many situations in which its two clauses—the Nonestablishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause—point in opposite directions. How should courts decide?
Courts have often treated the two religion clauses of the First Amendment as contradictory, with the free exercise clause used to protect religious practices and the establishment clause employed to limit the public expression of religious beliefs. Wrestling with God not only reconciles the relationship between the two clauses but also distinguishes them in terms of their respective purposes.